The workings of the master plan that nearly dismantled Marvel Comics’ First Family is uncovered, as is the series’ original numbering in James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s “Fantastic Four” #642. Making an event out of the team’s reunion, Robinson throws in plenty of guest stars in addition to the comic’s already sizeable supporting cast, all while continuing his revisitation of elements from the nearly forgotten “Heroes Reborn” universe. There are a lot of characters jammed into this issue, but Robinson makes sure more is definitely better as the team begins to make its grand return.
Along with Robinson, it’s an alliterative kind of comic as Kirk and inker Karl Kesel capture complete chaos. The decimated Baxter Building is under siege, the imprisoned kids of the Future Foundation make their move and, almost as an afterthought, there’s a planetary invasion going on. Several pages of star-studded superhero slugfests start off the issue, and it’s Kirk, Kesel and colorist Jesus Aburtov that grab readers’ attention in their execution of Robinson’s story. The lines are crisp, the colors vibrant and the layouts perfectly set the story’s pace. The entire creative team stokes the embers of the reader’s inner fanboy and there’s even a whiff of the old Stan Lee/Jack Kirby nostalgia here with so many characters and story elements packed into this single issue.
The action gives way to some tense drama as the issue progresses, but Kirk is no less effective here. The pace slows but speed gives way to tension, as mastermind John Eden has his villainous moment at the expense of a captive Reed Richards, and young Bentley faces a difficult choice regarding his allegiance. The emotion of these scenes is well-scripted by Robinson and well-paced by Kirk. Kirk and Kesel add more emotion with some perfectly executed facial expressions, particularly one specific panel featuring Onome, as well as the overall depiction of an emotionally-charged Sue Richards.
Beyond scripting a high-octane story, Robinson’s next-best achievement is his portrayal of Sue, who has been building her own story over the past several issues, which culminates here in a powerful moment as fed-up mama bear Sue strikes out at everyone who has invaded her home and endangered her children. However, Robinson makes a blatant swipe at the classic “Watchmen” that he makes no real attempt to conceal; it’s a pretty glaring distraction to anyone who knows that story, but Robinson’s own story recovers from it quickly enough.
“Fantastic Four” #642 begins to gather together all of the past elements of Robinson’s run and also picks up speed as it draws closer to its conclusion. The more-is-more approach used by the creative team makes for an incredibly fun and intense issue that easily sells readers on the next one.